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Dust off and fire up those barbecues—assuming you ever put them away—because the weather ahead is typical California, sunshine and heat waves are on the horizon. The sun was out on the past weekend; it was the perfect weather for firing up the grill and basking in the warm rays after an extended period of gloom.
I was invited to an ambitious meal on that Friday night to celebrate the occasion. On that night’s menu were coffee rubbed burgers with bacon, onions, thin wedges of tomatoes and sharp cheddar cheese all crammed in a potato bun with a generous helping of tantalizing chipotle sauce (made from scratch) for the condiment. I could not go empty handed, I just couldn’t, so I brought a bottle of Malbec to pair with the subtle notes of coffee on the patty and matchup with the sauce, at least that is what I was hoping for.
I was excited about the outing, being invited to spend time with close friends is always awesome, and of course eating a favorite food, that too makes any event that much better. When I first learned of the burger that would be served, I was a little skeptical because too many flavors can crowd the palate, overwhelming the taste buds. It was not too daring but the sauce and bacon were going to be heavy and hard to compete with. This left me to recount—mentally—all the failed burgers I have eaten because they were too bold, the ideas too grand. This burger however was well thought out.
When the burger made the plate I took a ceremonial picture (to officially mark the beginning of the season) and then dug in. Upon first bite the flavors were rich and well balanced; the tang from the sauce was mildly piquant and married the flavors of the coffee rub perfectly. The barbecuing also helped melt the rub into the ground meat, saturating the beef with complexity, which was quite savory. The texture of the meat was firm, not too crisp from the charred exterior of the patty lending to the depth of the burger. It was the best homemade hamburger I have had—it got better with each bite. A lot of time and trouble went into making that epicurean delight and each person polished their plates—so the chef (a friend’s girlfriend) could take pride in the fact that her guests were enraptured.
The Malbec—Doña Paula 2007 from Argentina, redolent of dark berries, currants and a little chocolate cocoa coated the tongue like a cashmere jacket. It has been a favorite wine of mine for a few years for the following reasons: it is affordable, approachable and consistent. The big fruit flavors are intense hitting your mouth instantly and they held up pretty well to the chipotle sauce on that burger. The wine is even satisfying on its own but it gets better when it is paired with matching flavors.
It was a nice night, punctuated by a fantastic homemade barbecue burger. This was a great way to kickoff the barbecue season and I sure hope it will be a long one if this is any sign of things to come.